Essential Yoga Stretches for Lower Back Pain

If you have occasional or chronic pain in your lower back, you're not alone. Low back pain is very common, especially as you age. Having a job where you sit most of the day exacerbates the problem. Taking the time to establish a regular stretching routine can make a big difference in your back pain prognosis.

The lower back is defined as the five lumbar vertebrae, which make up the curve of the spine just above the sacrum. Pain can originate from any of several interdependent anatomical sources, including the soft discs between each vertebra, the surrounding nerves, and the supporting muscles and ligaments.

Yoga can help alleviate discomfort by building strength in weak areas and stretching out tight areas. A regular yoga practice, which includes many different types of movements that involve the spine, is a good way to maintain spinal health over time.

The following series of poses includes spinal extension and flexion (also known as back bending and forward bending) and a twist. If you're already in pain, it's important to see your doctor for a diagnosis before starting any new exercises since not all stretches are appropriate for every condition. If you've been given the OK to do these types of movements or are looking for a preventative regime, you've come to the right place.


Pelvic Tilts

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Begin by lying on your back for pelvic tilts. If you can't lie down comfortably, you can also do these standing at the wall. Gently rocking your pelvis forward and back has the effect of flattening your low back against the floor (or the wall). It's a good way to introduce movement into a stiff spine.

Do 10 to 15 rounds of this stretch and notice whether you feel relief after this movement.


Cat-Cow Stretch - Chakravakasana

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Come to all fours for a few rounds of cat-cow. This stretch, which moves back and forth from flexion to extension, expands the action of the pelvic tilt into the whole spine, from tailbone to neck. Balancing on your hands and knees also helps build core strength. This basic movement can have a big impact for people who sit all day.

Five to ten rounds should do the trick, but you can always do more if you like.


Child's Pose - Balasana

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Forward bending is not recommended for some types of back pain (herniated discs, for instance), so make sure you're diagnosed before trying child's pose. To lessen the angle of the forward bend, you can also take a bolster under your chest and head. Your arms can rest beside the body or be outstretched in front, whichever is more comfortable.

Take a least 10 breaths here.


Chair Twist

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Twists are great for keeping your spine flexible. Take twists slowly and do not force yourself into position. 

Take about 5 breaths in this chair twist, lengthening your spine on the inhalations and gently deepening the pose on the exhalations. Then turn around to twist the opposite way. If you have more mobility, try a seated spinal twist - ardha matsyendrasana

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.